Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Funny how food trends creep up on us until they all at once over take the popular consciousness in a mad rage, then subsequently settle back down when the next big thing comes along. So it was for tapas. Tapas tapas tapas. They had their time in the spotlight a while ago. But they did leave their mark, with the whole "little dish" concept now being employed in all manner of restaurants.

Penelope Casas' "Tapas - The Little Dishes of Spain" (1985) was my guide into the then brave new world of tapas. Of all the terrific recipes in this book, and there are many, these tasty meatballs have stayed in active rotation in my repertoire. The sauce of ground almonds creates a dense, flavorful coating, thick enough to eat with a fork. A great party food served with little plates or a substantial main course for six people.

Last night we had some friends over for a tapas-style dinner and served these beauties alongside of asparagus broiled with tiny cubes of smoked ham; mushrooms sauted in olive oil with garlic, giant white beans and lemon juice; carrots braised in tonka bean-scented broth, and a gratin of fennel. It was really good last night -- as were the leftovers today at lunch.


3/4 c. panko bread crumbs
3/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. dry sherry
13 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 lb. ground beef
3/4 lb. ground pork
3/4 lb. ground veal
2 eggs
5 T. minced parsley
2 1/2 t. salt
freshly ground pepper
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 c. slivered blanched almonds
1 14 1/2 oz. can beef broth
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 bay leaf
2 scallions, chopped

Soak the bread crumbs in 1/4 cup of the white wine. Finely chop 3 cloves of garlic and combine with the bread crumbs, meat, eggs, 3 T. of parsley and the salt and pepper. Form into ping-pong sized balls.

Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and cook through in a hot (ideally convection) 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 14" paella pan, saute the onion and carrots in the olive oil until soft. Stir in the remaining white wine, the sherry and the other 10 cloves of garlic thinly sliced. Boil until most of the liquid has evaporated.

In a food processor grind the almonds as finely as possible. With the blade running, pour in the beef broth in a thin stream. When well mixed, pour into the paella pan, bring to a boil and add the remaining parsley, peas, bay leaf, scallions and more salt and pepper as needed. Slip in the meatballs, gently mixing them around so they are coated with the sauce. Lower the oven to 300 degrees, cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

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